Director: Peter Askin
Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang, Cara Buono.
Based on a short story by Stephen King.
UK DVD Release 20th April 2015 from Spirit Entertainment
“She knew nothing.”
Darcy Anderson (Allen) discovers her husband Bob (LaPaglia) has a dark secret that shakes her to the core, bringing into question twenty five years of marriage that from the outside looks blissful. This is the most synopsis that can be given without getting into spoilers. Most of which can be guessed at by the movie poster. However it’s not the “what” that is important, but the “what next”. A Good Marriage begins with what would normally be the climax and builds the tension off the character’s emotions.
A Good Marriage is also a closer relation to King’s more literary and dramatic works, like Dolores Claiborne. In fact it’s almost a sister film to that movie, giving the characters impossible choices and delving into their psyches.
Joan Allen, is, as always, impeccable. Her performance is nuanced, her character Darcy sympathetic and fraying as her life and marriage crumble around her. Anthony LaPaglia’s perky Bob runs counterpoint to his wife, creating a perverse satire of happy domesticity.
Despite all the high points, and they are many and high, A Good Marriage misses the mark by mere inches. It’s very much a domestic drama a la Stephen King, but it’s territory that has been covered many a time before. Gore hounds are also advised to look elsewhere, this simply isn’t that kind of film. Stephen Lang’s character Holt is completely wasted, coming in at the very end for no real reason other than to enact one final scene with Joan Allen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great scene. But had Holt been IN the movie that last scene would have had amazing emotional resonance.
After getting off to a bang A Good Marriage slows during a long middle, the best portion of which is Darcy trying to decide what to do without losing her mind. But It’s still a long slow burn to the ending of which there are three. Just when it should be over, it keeps going. Then just as the penultimate scene ends there is yet more. And each of the three are oddly rushed. The movie also feels small. It feels like a really good movie-of-the-week and it’s no wonder it didn’t really get wide release.
This is also a good thriller that you can recommend to your parents without shame. Whether that’s good or bad depends on you and your parents. As a character study though there is a lot to love and King completionists should enjoy it.
Final lesson: Don’t leave passive aggressive notes in your wife’s candy stash.